Some local veterans will get a chance this weekend to visit their national memorials and experience an Honor Flight without ever leaving the Tri-State.
Around 50 veterans, a third of whom served in World War II, will take a virtual Honor Flight this weekend, complete with opening ceremonies, official escorts and a welcome home celebration.
"We just realized that due to age and health problems, many veterans were not able to attend a traditional Honor Flight, so we developed a flightless program to bring Honor Flights to those veterans," says coordinator Carole Quackenbush with Honor Flight Tri-State.
The Flightless Honor Flight was created last year, and this weekend's event at Maple Knoll Village is the fourth to take flight.
Participants are treated just as if they were going on the full-day trip to Washington D.C. They are seated in a auditorium laid out like a plane, and they watch a 50-minute film that takes them through each of the national war memorials.
"We pride this in the fact that we treat this just like we do a traditional flight, we leave nothing out," says Quackenbush. "We have the bagpipers, we have a color guard, we present the veterans with challenge coins at the end, and we provide this large welcome home involving the community."
Quackenbush says the flightless program has proven emotional for veterans and care providers alike.
"It really affected the staff at the facility as well," she says of a previous flightless program. "They really looked at these veterans differently after the virtual flight when they saw a lot of the accomplishments and things that these men and women did. Even in the VA hospital, the staff really commented how seeing this flightless program really encouraged them in caring for these veterans on a daily basis."
You can apply for future Flightless Honor Flights here (PDF download).